I was a pastor for 16 years.
Currently, I am not.
When I was a pastor, all I did was hang out with church people. That was the bubble in which I lived. Nothing else outside of church mattered much to me.
Then I stepped out of pastoral ministry. I still went to church on Sundays. But during the week I began working regular jobs and spending much more time around unchurched people.
I began to see the way those outside the church felt and talked about those inside the church.
Do you know what I learned? They don't care about A LOT of things that church people get worked up over. They really don't.
They don't care if you use Lifeway materials or some other brand.
They don't care if you wear a suit or jeans to worship on Sunday.
They don't care if you prefer AWANA or RA's and GA's.
They don't care if you put your offering in the middle or the end of the service.
They don't care if you sing the doxology.
See my point? The things I've seen church people get all worked up over really don't matter to those who are outside the church. Not much at all.
The reason this is important is simple: Jesus called us to reach those people who are outside the church.
I've realize that people outside the church care about things like...
1) Will you welcome and accept me in your church?
2) Will you live during the week what you talk about on Sunday?
3) Will you show me practical ways that God is relevant to my every day life?
4) Will you be real and authentic with me?
5) Will you let me ask you questions and express my doubts?
6) Will you constantly preach about what you are AGAINST, or will you tell me what God is FOR?
See my point? Folks outside the church are thinking about things very different from what church people obsess and even fight over. It's a different world out there, folks.
I know this: If God ever lets me step back into pastoral ministry, I'll focus on things a lot more important than what I used to care about. I'll focus on preaching Jesus, loving people, and reaching out to those who are hurting. I've got a feeling and a hunch that's what ought to be happening inside the church anyway...